Winter is the time for holidays, food, family, warm fire and hot cocoa.
It’s also cold and flu season, and not just for us. Although our cats have luscious coats of fur to help combat the chill in the air, those coats aren’t germproof.
They are exposed to bacteria that make them sick almost as often as we are, even if they aren’t inside-outside pets. We bring in germs from every place we visit throughout the day, and when we come into contact with another person’s contagious pet or germs that quickly spread infections, they rub off on our animals when they rub against us.
They are also susceptible to breathing in moist air, just like us, which leaves them as vulnerable to upper respiratory infections as any human.
If you’re reading this, that means that your furry companion’s health is as important to you as ours is to us.
So, we wracked our brains and created this preventative measure list, to help you safeguard your feline against health hazards and potentially deadly viruses and infections this winter.
Don’t Overheat Your Cat
When our cat’s fur feels cold to the touch, our instincts tell us to bundle them up and crank up the heat. This is sometimes wise, but NOT always!
That cool sensation against our 98.6-degree skin is an indication that the fur is doing its job.
Body heat is retained closer to your cat’s skin, keeping them warm internally. Their coat may also feel cool because your pet feels a little too hot, and they found a place where they can feel a little breeze or cool spot and regulate their own body temperature.
So, the touch test may not be as accurate as you thought.
Cats have ways of showing us if they are cold.
They will often huddle in one spot, with their fur fluffed. They may also climb in open drawers that have clothes or blankets inside, and make themselves a little nest.
And don’t be surprised if they take every opportunity they see to climb in your lap.
Your body heat serves as the perfect natural heater for them (and the cuddles don’t hurt, either)! Let them keep their little nests, or make one for them to use when they’re cold.
Turn up the heat a degree or two.
Let them cuddle as much as possible.
Let THEM tell you what helps keep them warm, and when they’re warm enough.
- Use heating pads on your cats. They WILL overheat quickly, which can cause permanent health issues or, in some cases, kill them.
- Turn up the heat so high that you start sweating. If you’re sweating, your cat probably is, too, and the moisture is a good way to get really sick in the winter.
- Use ovens, stoves or fireplaces and leave them unattended. Not only are these fire hazards, your cat may be attracted to the heat/fire and burn themselves badly before you can get to them.
- Force those cute sweaters and outfits on inside only cats. That’s the equivalent of wearing every long-sleeved shirt and jacket you own in 65-degree weather and sitting outside. They will overheat quickly, which can make them very sick. If your cat goes outside occasionally, one little sweater should be fine, but they’ll also have sunlight and playtime to keep them warm.
Avoid Winter Baths
Cats hate baths, even at the best of times.
When it’s cold outside and they’re prone to feeling chilled, they will detest you for even trying. However, there’s more than their love at stake.
Bath time during the winter can be deadly for your cat. If they are not completely dry before exposure to cold air or infectious germs, or if they breathe in any of the moisture from the steam or their wet fur, they could become gravely ill.
Respiratory infections begin and develop quickly in cats, and without immediate medical treatment, they often result in death.
Even in the best-case scenarios, cats suffer for days, struggling to breathe properly and coughing constantly.
Although a vet can give them antibiotics, they can’t give our cats inhalers or cough medicines, like our doctors would give us, so they have to tough out the symptoms that make us miserable and crazy when we’re that sick.
If your cat is really dirty, or got into something that could be toxic to them, use unscented baby wipes in a well-heated room to clean their fur.
Instead of a flea bath, get your kitty a flea collar, an OTC, vet recommended flea medication, or rub them down with all-natural herbs that repel the itchy bugs.
Keep Them Indoors as Much as Possible
We know how difficult it can be to keep an outdoorsy cat inside, even when it’s below freezing outside.
There’s nothing wrong with letting them out once or twice a day for a few minutes at a time. However, if it starts raining, sleeting or snowing while your feline is outside, it can be dangerous.
If your cat tries to hole up and hide from the weather, you may have great difficulty getting them back inside, leaving them exposed to the wet and cold too long.
If they stay wet and cold for long, you might not reach them before it’s too late. Also, they are at risk for exposure to feline illnesses carried by strays or primarily outdoor cats running around your house.
If your cat gets into a fight with another feline, they could contract one of these illnesses, or develop a bad infection in a wound, which can be life threatening, especially if their immune system is lowered by a looming respiratory infection.
Be sure your cat isn’t left alone outside, and get them dry and warm once you bring them back inside.
Tend to any cuts or wounds they manage to get with baby wipes and an antibiotic ointment, and make sure that your feline’s crucial shots are up-to-date, for their protection and well-being, as well as the safety of all the wandering felines (and the peace of mind of their hooman caretakers).